• What is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)?

    Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a health problem that affects approximately 2 to 26 in every 100 women of childbearing age. This affects vary widely from women to women. PCOS have a hormonal imbalance and metabolism problems that may affect their overall health and appearance. PCOS is also a common and treatable cause of infertility. It can also affect your long- term health.

  • What are polycystic ovaries?

    Polycystic ovaries are slightly larger than normal ovaries and have twice the number of follicles (fluid-filled spaces within the ovary that release the eggs when you ovulate). Having polycystic ovaries does not necessarily mean that you have PCOS. Women with PCOS have symptoms as well as polycystic ovaries.

  • How common is PCOS?

    It's thought to be very common and affect millions of women across the world. Roughly 30% of women will show characteristics of PCOS syndrome in their lifetime. Women who are of childbearing age (early 20’s to mid-30’s) are most commonly affected by PCOS, however it can develop at any age.

  • What are the main symptoms of PCOS?

    The symptoms associated with PCOS will vary from woman to woman, and some people will also suffer more severe symptoms than others. Generally speaking though, the most common symptoms experienced by women suffering from PCOS include:

    • Difficulty in getting pregnant due to a lack of ovulation
    • Weight gain
    • Acne
    • Irregular periods
    • Hair loss from the head
    • Excessive hair growth all over the body.

    The symptoms vary from woman to woman. Some women have very few mild symptoms, while others are affected more severely by a wider range of symptoms. In addition to the most common symptoms listed above, women suffering from PCOS can also find themselves susceptible to some more serious health problems later in life such as type two diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, depression and sleep apnoea.

  • What causes PCOS?

    The cause of PCOS is not yet known but it often runs in families. If any of your relatives (mother, aunts, sisters) are affected with PCOS, your risk of developing PCOS may be increased. The symptoms are related to abnormal hormone levels:

    High levels of androgens

    Testosterone is a an androgen hormone that is produced in small amounts by the ovaries in all women but higher than normal androgen levels in women can prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg (ovulation) during each menstrual cycle, and can cause extra hair growth and acne.Women with PCOS have slightly higher than normal levels of testosterone and this is associated with many of the symptoms of the condition.

    High levels of insulin

    Insulin is a hormone that controls the level of blood sugar. It converts the food that you eat into energy. If you have PCOS, your body may not respond to insulin, this is called as insulin resistance. As a result, your insulin blood levels become higher than normal. To try to prevent the glucose levels becoming higher, your body produces even more insulin. Many women with PCOS have insulin resistance, especially those who are overweight
or obese, have unhealthy eating habits, do not get enough physical activity, and have a family history of type 2 diabetes. High levels of insulin can lead to weight gain, irregular periods, fertility problems and higher levels of testosterone.

  • What should I do if I think I may have PCOS?

    If you are suffering from any of the symptoms associated with PCOS then in the first instance it is advisable that you book in to see your doctor who will be able to carry out the necessary checks and rule out any other conditions. In some cases, they might also carry out an ultrasound scan, and/or a blood test as part of the exploration process. Following a diagnosis, your doctor will be able to help you and give advise as to how would be best way to manage the symptoms.

  • How is PCOS diagnosed?

    Having polycystic ovaries does not mean you have PCOS.

    Women with PCOS often have symptoms that come and go, par ticularly if their weight goes up and down. This can make it a difficult condition to diagnose, which means it may take a while to get a diagnosis. A diagnosis is made when you have any two of the following:

    • irregular, infrequent periods or no periods at all
    • an increase in facial or body hair and/or blood tests that show higher testosterone levels than normal
    • an ultrasound scan that shows polycystic ovaries.

    When a diagnosis is made, you may be referred to a gynaecologist or a reproductive endocrinologist who will be able to help.

  • What could PCOS mean for my long-term health?

    If you have PCOS, you are at greater risk of developing the long-term health problems discussed below.

    • 1. Insulin resistance and diabetes Over time, If your blood sugar does not stay normal, insulin resistance can lead to type 2 diabetes. One or two in every ten women with PCOS go on to develop diabetes at some point. If the diabetes is untreated, this can cause damage to organs in the body.
    • If you have PCOS, your risk of developing diabetes is increased fur ther if you:

    • are over 40 years of age
    • have relatives with diabetes
    • developed diabetes during a pregnancy (known as gestational diabetes)
    • are obese (a body mass index (BMI) of over 30)
    • If you are diagnosed with diabetes, you will be given advice about your diet and may be prescribed tablets or insulin injections.

    • 2. High blood pressure. Women with PCOS tend to have high blood pressure, which is likely to be related to insulin resistance and to being overweight rather than to the PCOS itself. High blood pressure can lead to hear t problems and should be treated.
    • 3. Cancer. If you have fewer than three periods a year, the lining of the womb (endometrium) can thicken and this may lead to endometrial cancer in a small number of women.
    • There are various ways to protect the lining of the womb by using hormonal treatment. Your doctor will discuss the options with you. The options will depend on whether you are trying for a baby. PCOS does not increase your chance of breast or ovarian cancer.

    • 4. Depression and mood swings. The symptoms of PCOS may affect how you see yourself and how you think others see you. It can lower your self-esteem.
    • 5. Snoring and daytime drowsiness. PCOS can lead to fatigue or sleepiness during the day. It is also associated with snoring.
  • What can I do to reduce long-term health risks?

    The main ways to reduce your overall risk of long-term health problems are to:

    • eat a healthy balanced diet. This should include fruit and vegetables and whole foods (such as wholemeal bread, whole-grain cereals, brown rice and whole-wheat pasta), lean meat, fish and chicken. You should cut down the amount of sugar, salt and caffeine that you eat and drink.
    • eat meals regularly, especially breakfast
    • take exercise regularly (30 minutes at least three times a week).
    • You should aim to keep your weight to a level that is normal. The benefits of losing weight include:

    • a lower risk of insulin resistance and developing diabetes
    • a lower risk of hear t problems
    • a lower risk of cancer of the womb
    • more regular periods
    • an increased chance of becoming pregnant
    • a reduction in acne and a decrease in excess hair growth over time
    • improved mood and self-esteem.

    You only have to lose a small amount of weight to make a difference to your symptoms and your health. There is no strong evidence that PCOS by itself can cause you to gain weight or makes losing weight difficult.

  • How does PCOS affect a woman while pregnant?

    Patients with PCOS appear to have a higher rate of miscarriage, gestational diabetes, pregnancy induced high blood pressure (pre-eclampsia) and premature delivery. Metformin can be given to those who have insulin resistance and does not appear to cause any major birth defects or other problems during pregnancy.

  • How is PCOS treated?

    Sadly, there is no cure for PCOS however, there are a number of ways in which patients can manage their symptoms effectively.In some cases, a weight loss programme may be advised to help reduce the effect of PCOS. Studies have shown that in overweight women, a decrease of just 5% of their body mass can have a positive impact on PCOS.

    For those suffering from missed or irregular periods it is often advisable to go on the contraceptive pill which can help to regulate a cycle.

    If you are trying to get pregnant and suffer from PCOS then it is recommended that you visit a fertility doctor who will be able to check if there are any further problems, such as blocked fallopian tubes, before advising on the best cause of medication. Clomifene is often prescribed in the first instance and is used to encourage the regular release of an egg from the ovaries. If this medication is found to be unsuccessful, then there are a number of other options which can be considered.

    You may feel that it is difficult to lose excess weight and keep it off, but it is important to continue the effort. Your efforts help reduce the risk for developing serious health complications that can impact women with PCOS much sooner than women without PCOS. The biggest health concerns are diabetes, heart disease, and stroke because PCOS is linked to having high blood pressure, pre-diabetes, and high cholesterol.

    Many women with PCOS successfully manage their symptoms and long-term health risks without medical intervention